We recently completed a five-part summer webinar series that included two sessions on multimodal teaching. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from this webinar series, we decided to share the top questions and their accompanying answers from the multimodal sessions.
During the sessions, presenters explored multimodality teaching and provided practical insights to assist instructors in creating effective hybrid courses (face-to-face, synchronous, remote, and asynchronous remote).
Here are the top ten questions we received and their corresponding answers!
What is multimodality teaching and learning?
Though there are many terms used to refer to teaching students who are not all in our traditional classroom, we chose to use the term “multimodality.” We define multimodality as “a delivery solution with various pathways” including in-person synchronous, remote synchronous, and/or remote asynchronous.
Which activities should I do online and which should I do in person?
We recommend identifying which of your course learning goals can be met asynchronously. Students in any mode can complete these activities. Next, envision the remaining course goals in the synchronous environment (in person or remote) and choose or create equivalent learning activities for asynchronous students. In this way synchronous time can be reserved for those goals that lend themselves to a synchronous environment (like facilitating and assessing spontaneous speaking in the target language). Also, by moving many of your goals to the asynchronous environment for all learners, you can devote time and energy into working out how to meet goals like “initiating, sustaining and closing a simple conversation” in the asynchronous environment. See sample syllabus and sample lesson plans in our online resource folder.
What are the benefits of multimodality teaching?
- One of the benefits is a richer learning environment. Multimodality instruction can provide more learning time, instructional resources, and activities for students.
- Another benefit is flexibility for students and the instructor. Students may have more flexibility and power in choosing their mode of participation responsive to their needs: schedule, geography, safety, etc. If safety no longer allows for in-person learning, your online instructional mode remains operational and may incorporate all learners.
- Multimodality teaching can enhance your teaching practice. You will develop new skills and acquire experiences teaching in a multimodality format that perhaps you had never imagined undertaking.
- And finally, each mode of instruction – remote and in-person – has its positives and with multimodality teaching, we can capitalize on all of them.
What are the potential challenges for students of multimodality learning?
- Motivation. This may in particular be the case for asynchronous learners who are not required to be in-class at a particular day and time.
- Remote learning may also require more self-management. For example, the remote learner must manage time well and must have the initiative to maintain good communication with other students and the instructor.
- Technology (hardware and software) as well as technology skills. Students learning remotely need technology resources including hardware, applications, and internet connection. They also need to be able to engage in online learning platforms. In-person students may need to have the technology and skills to engage with synchronous remote learners (for example, Zoom for group activities).
- Ability to learn through mediated experiences. This is true for all students, but may be particularly challenging for remote learners whose “class” experience is mediated by technology.
What are some of the best practices to keep in mind when designing and teaching a multimodality course?
A community of inquiry model where students learn by doing and the instructor is the facilitator is useful when designing and teaching a multimodality course. The idea is to put the student at the center of the learning process. As the instructor, your role is to set the stage for learning through the lesson design and through your presence with students in the lesson. Students are engaged in active, dynamic learning through interactive exercises where they construct meaning. Student-focused best practices include:
- Be adaptive
- Offer flexibility
- Have good resources
- Create equivalent pathways. This does not mean that each pathway will be the mirror image of the others. But while asynchronous learning may be less in-person social than an in-class experience, all students should be challenged to reflect on content, contribute their ideas, and interact with other’s ideas.
- Reuse materials across pathways.
- Conduct effective formal and informal as well as formative and summative assessment.
- Continue to use your effective face-to-face instructional approaches.
- Have a support network that might include colleagues, your IT Department, Faculty Development Office, and Vista Higher Learning.
Which of the Vista resources can I use in all classes – in-person, remote synchronous, and remote asynchronous?
All of the materials and functionalities of Supersite may be used in any mode. Functionalities such as Virtual Chats, Partner Chats, Forums, Live Chat and Instructor-Created Activities provide engaging and varied activities in all skill areas. See the sample lesson plans for ideas.
What would a multimodal syllabus look like?
When designing the syllabus for a multimodality course, it’s important to include the following key components:
- A clear description of the course where you identify the different learning pathways to course completion
- An updated list of required course materials where you include daily reliable access to high-speed internet, as well as a webcam and microphone
- A clear communication plan where you tell students the best way to reach you and how/when they will hear from you
- A more general course calendar that will allow flexibility for different learning pathways
- Revised grading criteria that align with the nature of multimodality learning
- Explicit tips for students on how to be successful in your course.
What are some practices for assessment in multimodality courses?
When teaching a multimodality course, it’s helpful to assess student learning online, so that students in all learning pathways can take the same assessments. One way to approach this is to conduct traditional written tests as formative assessments online and then use task-based activities as summative assessments. In many cases, these summative assessments can take the form of oral tests that require students to apply what they have learned. For more details on assessment in the remote or multimodality learning environment, we recommend that you view the webinar Best Practices for Remote Assessment.
How can Gradebook Analytics be beneficial in a multimodal environment?
Gradebook Analytics may be used in all pathways and can quickly help you assess if students are meeting learning goals. With Gradebook Analytics you can quickly analyze how students are doing on several metrics:
- “Recent” = the current week plus the previous week
- “Cumulative” = from the start of the course
- “Score Trend” = change in the students’ cumulative grade between the start – and end-dates of the “Recent” time frame.
The Gradebook Analytics tool will also alert you is any of your students are displaying the following at-risk student learning behaviors:
- “Low score” = below 70%
- “Missing” = “when 10% or more of assigned work is unsubmitted”)
- “Late” = “when 10% or more of assigned work is late.”
How should I structure partner and group activities where some students are in-person and others synchronous remote?
Given technology in your classroom, it may be easiest to maintain social distancing by partnering/grouping in-class students with synchronous remote students. The added benefit is that this will build community among students from different learning pathways.